First, we covered Mario. Then Mega Man (and friends). Now, the fallen superstar that is Sonic The Hedgehog. The years have not been kind to good ol’ blue-and-spiky, but his fans just won’t give up hope. While there’s been a recent upswing in the quality of games starring Sega’s mascot, they’ve been a pretty dismal lot over the past five years or so. Fortunately, there’s been some solid fan-made romps produced in the interim. Here’s a few of them.
The comically titled Eggman Hates Furries by Oddwarg is first up to bat. A very recent release, and one that’s going to divide opinions. The physics are quite different to what you might be used to in the series, offering lower gravity and higher inertia, but it works fairly well in the context of what the game is – a high-speed chase/boss-rush romp. 8 lengthy battles almost back-to-back, punctuated with bits of high-tension platforming are the order of the day here.
It’s definitely an amateurish production, but the creativity of the boss-setpiece design far outstrips the occasionally weak graphics and overwrought prologue/epilogue scenes (there’s no real plot/dialogue outside of those, thankfully). The ending is going to stand out for a few people – personally, I found it funny (there’s a few points which are obviously tongue-in-cheek), but some may be offended. Their loss. It’s also pretty hard. There’s fairly regular checkpoints, but each boss is probably equivalent to a final battle from any of the regular series, so bring your A-game for this one.
Diverging even further from standard Sonic style is a much older project – Sonic Robo Blast 2, by the cheekily named Sonic Team Jr. A third-person 3D Sonic game running on a variant of the Doom engine, of all things. With the possible exception of Sonic Colors, it probably does the best job so far of transferring the classic Sonic platforming style into the third dimension, and has plenty of content to get your teeth into, as well as a small-but-dedicated mapping community who produce additional levels, a notable pack of which is linked on the SRB2 front-page.
On top of everything else, it even sports a variety of multiplayer modes ideal for LAN play, ranging from straight campaign co-op to races, tag and more complex games like Capture the Flag. The range of characters from singleplayer return, with their unique abilities and perks intact, too.
Getting back to the roots of the series, daring duo Pelikan13 & Mercury released a demo of Sonic Fan Remix, one of the most ambitious Sonic fan-projects to date. The demo is a handful of levels from what is planned to be a whole reimagining of early Sonic games, the first thing you’ll notice from screenshots and videos is that this one looks phenomenal. The graphical quality far outstrips anything Sega did in the recent Sonic 4. In fact, one of the key complaints about it is that the foreground is too detailed, sometimes distracting you from the action.
The movement physics are especially impressive, capturing the feel of the earlier games in the series perfectly, and applying them to a much more modern-looking and sounding experience. There’s some obvious issues with the current build, but it’s a very early pre-release demo rather than a finalized product. As it stands, it gives me a lot of hope for how this project will develop. The (blue) sky’s the limit here.
Turning back the clock even further is Sonic the Hedgehog Megamix, by Team Megamix of SonicRetro.org. Less of a pure fan-game and more of a bizarre frankenstein project. The original Sonic, disassembled, reverse-engineered and put back together as a standalone Sega CD game with all new levels and a bunch more playable characters.
You’ll need an emulator to run this one, such as Kega, but it’s worth the extra legwork, just to see the amount of effort that went into what could have been a mere romhack, but grew into a surprisingly ambitious game in its own right.
Megamix isn’t the only reverse-engineered Sonic game by any means. There’s heaps of them, as you can see here. You can also find plenty more Sonic fangames (and resources with which to build your own, if you’re so inclined) here. If you’ve got a favourite you’d like to recommend, just comment below.
Oh, and I’ll just lay this out for you now: Any silly fanboy slapfights in the comments over whether he’s called Eggman or Robotnik will be punished with harsh glares and/or disconcerting ogling. I’m watching you.